Roman holiday: Preschool teacher receives gift of a lifetime

June 2018 Posted in Community

Above: Margaret Feicht receives the news the parents of her former students are sending her to Italy. Nicole Orton

By Melissa Wagoner

Gather in Silverton was packed to the brim on June 8 – but this was no typical lunchtime crowd. Seated in the middle at a table chosen for its bird’s eye view of the door was Margaret Feicht – Teacher Meg to her students – and all around her were the parents, children and friends she has known and loved for over 13 years.

Unbeknownst to Feicht – who was invited to lunch by co-worker Teresa Zade – the familiar faces she was seeing were not coincidental. Instead they were the work of two crafty women – Summer Sheldon and Krystina Bielemeier – who together had created the surprise of
a lifetime.

“We were talking about how great she is and how we could thank her,” Sheldon remembered. And the two came up with the ultimate plan.

Knowing Feicht’s daughter Emily, who studies architecture at the University of Oregon, was recently enrolled in a summer abroad program in Rome, Italy, the pair decided a vacation abroad might be just the ticket.

“We were there when Meg found out Emily was going to Italy and she was so excited,” Sheldon said. “Krystina was like, ‘Let’s start a GoFundMe page.”

The original goal was to raise several hundred dollars, which Feicht could put toward a plane ticket and to present the gift at church that Sunday – but they were in for a surprise. Within 24 hours what started out in the hundreds quickly grew into the thousands and they upped their goal to $3,000, assuming that would cover the entire ticket with money to spare.

“Literally I started it Tuesday night,” Sheldon said. “It was a Facebook message group of 120 people. People were giving like $200. It became evident so quickly how much people love her.”

Because of the speed at which the page was reaching its goals Sheldon and Bielemeier decided to do a big reveal at Gather – one of Feicht’s favorite spots.

Setting the event up with owner Anna Kuzmin, whose daughter is a former student of Teacher Meg, they sent out a secret invitation to those who had contributed funds and people poured in.

“This was just such a lovely show of Silverton,” Sheldon said.

At 12:45 p.m. on the dot, Sheldon and Bielemeier entered the overflowing restaurant decked out with balloons, flowers and two special envelopes – one contained a copy of the GoFundMe page and the other a ticket to see Sting, Feicht’s favorite performer, who happens to play this summer in Rome.

“When Summer and Krystina came in with balloons that’s when it started to dawn on me – I go, ‘That’s why you’re all here,’” Feicht laughed. “And when she said, ‘You’re going to Italy,’ I thought they were teasing me.”

Feicht quickly realized the presentation was no trick as diners moved from their tables to gather around her and show their appreciation through applause and hugs.

“She’s just a joy,” Jill Martini – whose children, Lucas and Payton, were previous students – said. “She’s so upbeat, happy, positive – she’s just amazing. She truly cares for the kids and the families and the community. She’s a gem for sure.”

Sheldon agreed, “She’s been this really amazing force of love. She’s just the best preschool teacher. So much love goes into it.”

Feicht – who has taught preschool at Silverton Christian School for the past 13 years – never expected a thank you of this sort.

“I’ve always loved kids – my kids, everybody else’s kids,” she said. “When I started 13 years ago, that was God’s gift to me. They’re my passion. After 13 years they still make me laugh. It’s still as fresh as it was that first year.”

Although still overwhelmed by the generosity the community has shown, she is excited about the trip to come.

“I cannot wait to experience the art and history – two of my favorite things in the world,” she said. “I can’t wait to taste the coffee and of course the red wine. Emily and I are going to take an espresso class in Florence.”

A single mom, Feicht is also excited about spending quality time with both Emily and her son Kyle – who will also be traveling in Italy for work.

“The topping on the cake is I get to do it with Emily,” Feicht said. “She’s the kind of daughter any mother would want.”

Although Feicht is still struggling to wrap her mind around the overwhelming generosity that has come her way, Sheldon is not surprised by the depth of gratitude fans of  Teacher Meg have shown.

“Love begets love,” she said. “Her love – it just has created so much love. She’s just so wonderful.”

Goal:  $10,000

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